This article is part of our Essential Guide: Essential Guide: State of 5G in APAC

Almost 2,000 5G cities globally at end of 2021

Research shows 23 live open radio access network deployments and 24 standalone 5G networks in addition to almost 2,000 cities in the world having a next-generation mobile network

Research from Viavi Solutions has found that despite the pandemic, 5G cities have been coming online at a rate of nearly two a day, with the addition of 635 new 5G cities in 2021 leading to a total of 1,947 globally at the end of January 2022.

Now in its sixth year, The state of 5G report from the global provider of network test, monitoring and assurance solutions also found that by the end of January 2022, 72 countries had 5G networks in place, with the newest crop of 5G countries comprising Argentina, Bhutan, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Malta and Mauritius, which all came online in the second half of 2021.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) has overtaken Asia Pacific including Greater China (APAC) to become the region with the most 5G cities at 839. APAC has 689 5G cities and the Americas have 419.

Not surprisingly, the world’s two largest economies, the US and China, are the countries with the most 5G cities. China now has 356 5G cities and the US has 296. The Philippines remained in third place globally with a total of 98 5G cities.

Currently, most 5G networks deployed are non-standalone (NSA) networks, which essentially means 5G equipment is added to existing 4G network infrastructure. There are currently 24 standalone (SA) 5G networks globally, which have been built using a new 5G core network. Viavi noted that it is widely considered that many of the next-generation use cases and monetisation models associated with 5G, beyond enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), will only be possible when standalone 5G networks built on new 5G core networks are in place.

The state of 5G also highlighted the growing Open RAN ecosystem, combining mobile operators as well as software and infrastructure suppliers, seeking to develop an open, virtualised radio access network (RAN) with embedded artificial intelligence control. The survey highlighted that, as of March 2022, 64 operators have publicly announced their participation in the development of Open RAN networks. This breaks down to 23 live deployments, 34 in the trial phase, and seven operators that have publicly announced they are in the pre-trial phase.

“5G continued to expand, despite the headwinds of a global pandemic,” said Sameh Yamany, CTO at Viavi Solutions. “What comes next in 5G is the reinforcement of networks. This will take a couple of forms. Firstly, we expect to see more standalone 5G networks, which will deliver on much of the promise of 5G, both for the operator and for the wider ecosystem of users. And secondly, we expect to see Open RAN continue its rapid development and start to become a de facto standard.

Viavi will continue to play a central role in testing those new networks as they are built and expanded.”

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